December 19, 2008

Practice Insider: Byers will stay for sixth season

Senior offensive guard Jeff Byers knows what life as a USC Trojan is like. After all, he's been on campus for five years.

But faced with a decision about his future and the NFL, Byers turned to USC offensive line coach Pat Ruel and Trojan head coach Pete Carroll.

"There's a lot out there beyond SC. After talking to Coach Ruel and Coach Carroll, who both spent a lot of time in the NFL, they know what's out there and what it takes," Byers said. "I think it was a no-brainer in terms of finishing up my MBA. In terms of football, that's where it was iffy.

"After talking to Coach Ruel and Coach Carroll, it became clear that the smart decision was to stay."

All that needed to happen was for the NCAA to grant Byers a sixth year of eligibility.

Friday morning, that happened.

"It'll be better to develop my skills here at USC where it's still fun. It's not a job," he said. "You get along with the coaches and the people in charge. In the NFL, you're just another body.

"…It's the no fun league for a reason. That's what they call it. I can't imagine anyone having more fun than we do here."

Byers said Ruel and Carroll told him he could be anything between a third and sixth-round pick if he entered this year's draft.

Carroll's glad to have Byers on his way back to an offense that potentially could lose just one starter - wide receiver Patrick Turner.

"Jeff's got more work to do here," Carroll said. "He wants to finish up, and we're thrilled to have him. We're lucky to have him around."

Byers said he hopes to use his extra time to help gain weight, something his bout with Rocky Mountain spotted fever this past summer didn't allow.

"There's a lot of work to be done, in terms of football in my mind, for myself," Byers said. "I didn't get to achieve a lot of the goals I wanted to during the summer being sick. I would like to go into a season healthy having a whole summer to work out.

"I know the knock on me is that I'm small. I'm undersized."

The man in the hat

Former Trojan quarterbacks coach Carl Smith walked among Trojan players Friday at Howard Jones Field, wearing a USC football hooded sweatshirt and a USC baseball cap.

He certainly looked like a member of the USC coaching staff.

Smith is the frontrunner to coach the Trojan quarterbacks after Steve Sarkisian leaves for Washington, but after USC's practice, he said his appearance at recent practices had nothing to do with the future.

"I'm just here watching a few practices," Smith said. "That's all."

Carroll said he continues to talk to Smith a lot about coaching with the Trojans, but at this point, nothing has been finalized.

"We're not ready to do that yet. We're still trying to put everything together. I want to see everyone together," Carroll said. "It's a unique opportunity because we know Carl well, and he knows guys on our staff. We're just giving everyone a chance to fit together to see if it's going to work out.

"It's the longest interview of all time."

Quarterback Aaron Corp got to talk with Smith some on Friday, and said he's excited about the possibility of having the ex-NFL offensive coordinator on staff.

"He brings a lot of experience. He's been everywhere. He spent a lot of time in the NFL. He's coached in college," Corp said. "If he comes, I'm excited to have him be here and be really focused on the quarterbacks. With (John Morton) as the coordinator, he'd have a lot more time to focus on us instead of worrying about the whole offense."

Extra Points

• Fullback Stanley Havili returned to the practice field Friday, getting limited work on his injured ankle. Damian Williams also caught some passes and could be back to practice by Sunday or Monday.

• Carroll seemed perturbed over questions about Taylor Mays and the NFL.

"We're not going to talk about that," he said.

Brice Butler has taken on the task of mimicking Penn State's versatile wide receiver Derrick Williams.

• Carroll said he's not received any word on Josh Pinkard's request for a sixth year of eligibility.

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